Monday, December 05, 2011

 

Obama's Key Card Could be the Young

Everyone seems to agree that Obama's chances of success in 2012 hinge on the state of the economy. This could well be true but two crucial factors might also play important roles: the choice of Republican candidate and the generational divide. This last was analysed by Andrew Sullivan in the ST yesterday and interesting reading it made.

A recent Pew survey of American voters reveals an astonishing difference between the attitudes of those under 30 compared with those over 65. Before Jimmy Carter differences of voting choice between the young and old were in single figures; now the gap is closer to 20 points.

On a whole range of issues youth does not agree with the senior cohort. Why is this so? Sullivan blames the previous Republican White House.

'.... it turns out that the real legacy of that great Republican strategist, Karl Rove, was an entire generation of liberal Democrats.'

Whilst the under 30s tend to agree with their parents on abortion, they disagree mightily on:

i) the degree to which government should intervene in society- 56% of under 30sw want bigger government compared to 25% of over 65s.
ii) same-sex marriages- two thirds of the young in favour- only a third of the elderly.
iii) 75% of the young are happy with inter-racial marriage- only 37% of the old.
iv) 64% of the elderly believe USA is 'the greatest country on earth'- only 32% of the younger generation do.
v) over 65s back unilateral foreign policy 44%-40%- the under 30s support multilateral foreign policy 63% -29%
vi) older voters are suspicious of China- two thirds of the young want closer ties.

The problem is that while the old tend to be less liberal on so many things, they do support their guaranteed benefits while the young would like them weakened. Sullivan picks pout one issue as a central explanation: the tendency for the young to be less racially homogenous and indifferent to racial and cultural change- the old are not. 79% of the elderly are white and grew up in a segregated country. Only 59% of the young are white and voting for a mixed race president was not a problem. That 20% gap might well prove vital to determining the election contest next November. What is more, the future generation of older voters, is likely to retain Democrat rather than Republican sympathies.

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